Healing through the Mind-Body Connection
Psychotherapy focuses on improving mental health. Most therapeutic methods focus only on the mind, but somatic therapy differs. This modality seeks to heal the effects of trauma and other mental and emotional health issues by bridging the gap between the body and the mind using a body-focused approach that differs greatly from other available treatment methods.
What Is Somatic Therapy?
Somatic therapy is also sometimes called somatic counseling. It’s performed in various ways, but all focus on incorporating body-oriented aspects to help alleviate stress, tension, and even trauma. These can include activities like meditation and breathwork, dance and mind-body exercises, bodywork, etc.
What Is a Somatic Approach to Therapy?
A somatic approach to therapy is based on the realization that the mind and body are not separate and that human beings store and hold stress and tension in different parts of the body. In short, mental and emotional health involve the entire body, not just the mind. Therefore, by taking a body-centric approach and incorporating treatment modalities like talk therapy and body-oriented modalities, patients can release stress and tension and begin healing from their traumas.
What Are Examples of Somatic Therapy?
Somatic therapy can incorporate different treatment methods, ranging from sensorimotor psychotherapy to TRM and more. Below, we’ll discuss three methods currently used within the field of somatic therapy.
Trauma Resiliency Model (TRM)
The Trauma Resiliency Model, usually abbreviated as TRM, is designed to address the physical effects of stress caused by traumatic experiences in a patient’s past. It’s based on the realization that all traumatic events are experienced through the physical senses (touch, taste, hearing, smell, sight, etc.) and stored within the nervous system. This is why a particular smell can evoke powerful childhood memories, or a particular texture can immediately roll back decades. TRM is a somatic approach that helps patients with traumatic stress reactions by learning skills to help stabilize the mind and body. Patients will learn to track body sensations and bring balance back to the nervous system.
The Havening Techniques
The Havening Techniques are essential in somatic therapy for their direct effect on the body. These techniques rely on physical touch, including the sensation of brushing down the arms, back, hands, and/or face to calm both the body and the mind. They are designed to provide positive sensory input to help change a patient’s mood, alter their thoughts, and change behaviors.
However, there’s more to this treatment modality than gently touching a patient’s arm or shoulder. It includes a combination of touch, breathing, emotional activation, distraction techniques, and even eye movements, all of which can help the patient put distance between traumatic stimuli and their emotional reaction to those stimuli, allowing them to begin the healing process.
Sensorimotor psychotherapy is used within somatic therapy to help patients who feel disconnected or numb reconnect with their emotions by using the body as a source of intervention and information. Like TRM, sensorimotor psychotherapy is built on the understanding that the body carries the memory of trauma, not just the mind.
It is also based on the realization that unprocessed trauma can continue to be reexperienced on a somatic level, causing symptoms that range from physical pain to hyperarousal. This can manifest in posture, movements, and even nervous system operation. Sensorimotor psychotherapy bridges the gap between the mind and the body to target autonomic dysregulation, posture-related issues, and physical activity habits while also addressing the psychological effects of traumatic experiences.
Other Treatment Frameworks Used within Somatic Therapy
While TRM, Havening Techniques, and sensorimotor psychotherapy are all commonly used within the broader field of somatic therapy, other frameworks may also benefit patients. These include:
- Bioenergetic Analysis – This body-centric framework combines relational work, analytic work, and bodywork with an understanding of energy within the body.
- Brainspotting – Brainspotting combines body and mind work with eye positioning to help change learned emotional reactions to different stimuli, helping patients reframe their responses and experiences.
- Biodynamic Psychotherapy – Biodynamic psychotherapy combines holistic therapy such as massage, acupuncture/acupressure, and allopathic treatments.
Ultimately, somatic therapy bridges the gap between physical symptoms and stress held within the body and the mental components involved with trauma and stress. The body is not simply a collection of different systems; somatic therapy builds on this understanding to treat the body-mind as a whole through physical modalities and more conventional treatment methods, such as talk therapy.